A 48 year old male employee working at a well-known tyre manufacturer died after being trapped in an autoclave for over two hours. The vessel is used to heat tyres to temperatures up to 145 degrees Celsius, producing a pressurized environment with little or no oxygen.
The incident which occurred in a Carlisle factory in September 2012 was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The HSE told Carlisle Crown Court that the autoclave had a heavy pressure door which could not be opened from the inside and did not have any operational controls inside to stop the machine in an emergency.
The court heard that the company was guilty of several health and safety failings. Firstly, there was no system in place to check whether personnel were inside the vessel before it was switched on, although it was common practice for some workers to access the autoclave to pick up any fallen rubber beads. No risk assessment had been carried out and there were no warning signs or instructions to prevent access to the machine.
The court fined the company £150,000 and ordered to pay £46,706 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
After the case was heard, HSE Inspector Michael Griffiths stated:
“[The company] failed to identify the risk posed by workers entering the autoclave. They should either have prevented access, or made sure that the autoclave was properly checked each time before the door was closed and the operating cycle started”.
“If either of these policies had been implemented then [the worker’s] death might have been avoided.”
For further information please visit www.hse.gov.uk/manufacturing.